Thursday, October 30, 2008

Sayonara, Tokyo!

Packed and ready to go. We've got one last morning in Tokyo then it's JAL to SFO to LAX to STL. I'll fill in some blanks over the weekend once we're back.

Top: Looking down an alley lined with Pachinko parlors in Ueno.
Bottom: Hol in the wee elevator at Yamashiroya , a seven-story toy/collectibles/models/etc. store. Also in Ueno.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Is There A Brown Power Ranger?

There is now. Though I've got to admit, I don't really know my Power Rangers and I don't think the dude I'm standing next to is a Power Ranger at all.

Since I haven't posted the past two days, I offer you the above pic – a picture that was never meant to see the light of day. It's from Saturday at the Hakuhinkan Toy Park in Ginza. Enjoy.

I'll try to catch up tomorrow on yesterday's (Tuesday) trip to Harajuku/Omotesando/Aoyama and today's visit to the Imperial Palace's East Garden and Asakusa – including Senso-Ji.

Tonight at dinner we figured out that we've had a different type of Japanese meal each day – sushi isn't the only option. However, we did have exceptionally fresh sushiTuesday night at Sushizanmai outside the Tsukiji Market – where the world's best sushi is auctioned, fresh off the boat, every day – and lunch today was yakisoba at Sometaro in Asakusa. More about both (memorable) meals later.

And, haters, prepare to get mad 'cause I got me some Bathing Ape. I picked up one of Bape's more restrained hoodies from the stunning Bapexclusive location. And, at the equally stunning Original Fake store I scored a sweet windbreaker. Both interiors were designed by über-hot Japanese firm Wonderwall.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Otanjou-bi Omedetou Gozaimasu! To Me.

We spent today in and around Roppongi Hills. An area of Tokyo I first became aware of years ago through it's graphic identity – a brilliant typographic system developed by British designer/typographer, Jonathan Barnbrook .

Like each day before it, today was a long day packed from one end to the other with blog-worthy stuff. Today also shares the problem of the last few in there's been either no time or I'm too tired at the end to craft a post that would do justice to the day. So, here are the three highlights among highlights.

The astounding show, The Messengers, by French artist Annette Messager at the Mori Art Museum on the 52nd floor of the Mori Tower. A show we missed at the Pompidou by a couple of weeks on our honeymoon.

The Tokyo City View on the top of Mori Tower. Absolutely spectacular views of the whole of Tokyo. You get one view from my iPhone.

Dinner at Gonpachi in Nishi-Azabu, just West of Roppongi Hills. (Gonpachi served as the inspiration for the set in the Crazy 88s fight scene in Kill Bill: Vol. 1.)

Oh, I almost forgot. At lunch Hol – for the first time ever – surprised me by asking for the smoking section and we ended up sitting in what was basically the coat room with another (smoking) couple. Seriously. It was absurdly hilarious. I can barely stop laughing as I write this. It was truly absurd and slightly surreal. This view just gives you the "hilarity" of Hol getting smoked out in the "hotboxed " coatroom – but behind me is a coatrack and to my right is a closet. Maybe you had to be there.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Ain't No Crossing Like Shibuya Crossing

'Cause Shibuya Crossing don't stop. Seriously. The above pic is just one direction (of about five) that are waiting for the light to change at one of the world's most famous scramble crossings. And when the light does change, you're moving – into a mass of people coming the opposite direction. It's amazing it works at all.

So, I'm falling woefully behind on my bloggin on this trip. I think it may be because Tokyo – and by extension one's time spent here – is so densely packed. I may have to circle back and do a big recap (or a few) at the end of the trip.

Off to dinner at Ten-Ichi Deux. Number 7 on this list from the Guardian.

UPDATE: We can now unequivocally tell you that it is hard to find sh*t in Tokyo. Particularly smaller shops, restaurants, etc. Now that we've got the metro down, we were thinking we're cool and we'd ride back to Ginza tonight, hop off the metro and walk right to Ten-Ichi Deux. Well, between getting on the metro and getting off, we somehow realized we weren't really sure of a. which exit (of about 10) to take out of the Ginza metro stop or b. which way to walk once we got out. So, after consulting a couple of maps (we usually have at least two different maps on us), to no avail and I ready to give up and eat somewhere else and Hol ready to just give up walking and take a cab, Hol took charge and flagged us a cab. We got in. The cab driver did the Tokyo cab driver thing. Drove us in what amounted to about a six block semi-circle and dumped us roughly four blocks from where we'd been and told us to ask the cop on the corner (Either that or consult the large map. There was one of each on the corner.) So, we first consulted the large map. Again to no avail – almost every map of Tokyo is different enough from another that you've got to cross-reference at least two. But, still no luck in pin-pointing Ten-Ichi Deux. Okay, Hol asks the cop. He goes into the open-faced mini-station on the corner grabs us a map and basically tells us "good luck" (With a smile, of course. Everyone in Tokyo is unfailingly polite and smiling.) So, assuming we've got to be close, we walk up to the mini-mallish (Stores that are essentially a collection of boutiques are big in Tokyo) building on the corner right behind the police outpost and what do we see on the sign? Ten-Ichi Deux! On the ground floor! We're on the ground floor! This is great! So, we walk in and walk through the whole ground floor... No TI2 anywhere. We walk back to the door we came in, notice the mall map by the elevators and... the restaurant in on the other side of the mall with only an outside entrance. You know it's hard to find sh*t when the cab drivers and the cops (standing right in front of the building!) don't know where sh*t is. Dinner was great.
Police sub-station on left with peaked roof. Mall out of frame at left. Also worth noting, while it's not anything I'd call a trend, a relatively large number of people wear face masks (relative to "none" in the US). We're not sure if it's because they are sick or don't want to get sick.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Tokyo, Day 2. (Or Day 3, Depending On How You're Counting)

A quick post about yesterday in Ginza before we head out for Shibuya and Harajuku today.

So, we finally took the subway. Three stops, but a good introduction to the system. (Even in "English" it took two of us to figure out how to buy and use a ticket.) We rode from the stop in the basement of our hotel, Mitsukoshimae, to Ginza on the yellow Ginza line. (PDF of metro system.)

We spent a long day wandering Ginza's main thoroughfares and back streets. We stopped in the newest Muji store. I look forward to the day when Muji brings its well-designed "generics" (clothes, home goods, furnishings, etc.) to the States. While we were tempted by much, I left with only a book of the contemporary design of Kenya Hara published by Japanese design magazine, Idea.

Hol ended up sating her fix to buy something at the Hakuhinkan Toy Park – sort of a Japanese Toys'R'Us. She left with the "Prairie Green" solar-powered bobble head stress-reliever, Nohohon Zoku.

At some point, we stopped for lunch at Negishi , a small restaurant on a side street – that we later realized was part of a chain – where we tried the "grated Yamato (glutinous) yam" dish, Tororo.

Okay, got to go. More later.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Tokyo And The Art Of The Taxi Driver

Okay, so we still haven't taken the metro. We took cabs today. And, this account of Tokyo cab drivers now seems very accurate. Navigating Tokyo seems to be a bit of a mystery – even to the people who you'd think would know it best. After telling him our destination and showing him on a map, our cab driver took our map and examined it very intently. Then, he wanted to keep our map and set it on the seat beside him for a while. Finally, after examining his map at a stop light he handed ours back to us. 
After a fairly quick ride, we eventually ended up at our destination, the Museum of Modern Art. We took in the permanent exhibition, Modern Japanese Art from the Museum Collection. A fascinating condensed retrospective of the last one hundred years of Japanese art. With this pic representing the current state of affairs – two HD "canvases" displaying a digital piece, featuring sound and motion, spanning the two. (The photo does not do it, nor the other 4 pieces in the series, justice.)
We had a delicious late lunch with a roomful of Japanese "ladies who lunch " at the museum restaurant, H2 (apparently run by the restaurant Queen Alice) and spent a few hours taking in the exhibit. We're now back (again) at the hotel and I think we may be down for the count today (I think Hol already is). All-in-all, I'd feel good about the first day if we didn't leave the room again tonight.

This last pic is our view looking West – I think. Regardless, it's the direction we'll be heading tomorrow to walk the streets of Ginza which are sealed to auto traffic on the weekends.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Tokyo In The Rain

After breakfast we thought it would be a good idea to venture out to get our local bearings by taking a walk. We probably should have saved it for a day other than the only day it's supposed to rain all day. We're now back drying off before lunch and a new plan: learn the subway system.

Pic is from our outdoor table under an awning (despite the rain, it's very warm) at our local Starbucks across the street from the upscale Nihonbashi Mitsukoshi department store (through which we took an extended stroll) connected to our hotel by underground walkway.

Konichiwa Bitches! (From Tokyo)

Just a quick post to say we've arrived and we're awake — after 12+ hours of travel and about 6 hours of sleep. We – like the rest of Tokyo by appearances – are just getting going. Then we'll head out for our first Tokyo breakfast.

The foggy, drizzly view is from our 35th floor window here.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Race And The Race Redux (And Some Other Stuff)

Please, watch AFL-CIO Secretary Treasurer Richard Trumka's powerful and moving speech decrying racism and passionately beseeching the audience to vote for Obama at the United Steelworkers convention July 1, 2008.

And, since you're here, watch Colin Powell's compelling endorsement of Obama on Meet The Press this morning.

Also, this may be the last post until Tokyo. If I'm doing my time zone math right, the first Tokyo post will probably show up on the 24th. Regardless, I'm going to treat Tokyo as detox for this nasty habit I've picked up and this is almost certainly the last election post. That is, until I fall off the wagon for a few days on the 1st. In the interim, if you need a fix I highly recommend the following:

In no particular order and by no means comprehensive – just good places to start. Explore.

Electoral Vote/Stat Tracking/News Aggregators

The Daily Beast

Prediction Market

Rational Conservative Writing
The American Conservative

Finally, many thanks to Strom for the Richard Trumka vid.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Anyone Got Change For 100,000?

The view from about 3/4 of the way back at the Obama Rally underneath the Arch on a stunningly beautiful mid-October day. The view from the front .
The change he's effected in St. Louis in just eighteen months is astounding. Let's make sure we elect this man, people. Please.

UPDATE: Barack has a few great pics up on his flickr.

Friday, October 17, 2008

The Comedic Stylings Of Barack Steve Obama

If you haven't seen it yet, do yourself a favor and watch Obama do comedy (and do a respectable job of it) at the Al Smith dinner last night. McCain provided the opening act. And, truth be told didn't do a half bad job himself. However, after watching them both, I can't help thinking, "Don Rickles. Chris Rock."

Is Truth Stranger Than (Pulp) Fiction?

If you haven't seen this yet, it represents a case where truth – if not "stranger than" – seems at least equal to campy fiction. In fact this campy fiction could be the inspiration for the McCain campaign's darkly campy reality.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

McCain To Try To Make Up With Letterman/Nation Tonight

Tellingly, "Schedule 'Too Little, Too Late' Appearance on Late Show to Make Up With Dave" isn't on Dave's Top 10 Ways John McCain Can Turn It Around. Get some background on the relationship and check your local listing here.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Game On!

Having not been gaming much over the past couple of months I was wondering, just yesterday, if either candidate (Obama, really) was doing anything on any of the console platforms. Well, the Obama camp continues to out-geek the other team in recreating the campaign playbook for the digital age. Barack now has in-game ads being served over Xbox Live into the racing game, Burnout Paradise.
Screenshot: 360 gamer, "Jeffson". Via GigaOM.

Monday, October 13, 2008

And Now For A Little Perspective

"Imagine a draft of air, moving dust balls around you. The draft is invisible, but you can see its effect on the dust balls. Now imagine that the dust balls are galaxy clusters, and the draft is a powerful, gravity-like force that can’t be explained by existing theories. That force, newly discovered by a team of NASA astrophysicists, has been named dark flow, and it’s pulling entire galaxies out of our universe — and into the unknown."

Continue reading the VSL piece. Or, read more about dark flow.

Bradley Effects And Reboot Narratives

We'll have to wait until the votes are counted to see if the Bradley Effect rears it's covertly racist head, but we can begin our watch now for a McCain campaign "Reboot Narrative". If it plays out it'll make me feel like a sucker for giving him some grudging props in the previous post. Well... forewarned is forearmed.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Race And The Race

Smart, funny Jay Smooth ("the hardest blogging man in Hip-Hop" according to Wired magazine) of Ill Doctrine has some sound advice on dealing with Racism and those who may (or many not) be racists. Very much worth watching as I imagine we're stuck with cretins like this for good.

And, Kite Runner author, Khaled Hosseini weighs in on the subject in the Washington Post .

UPDATE: From the NYTDo Polls Lie About Race? examines the role race may – or may not – play in polling. I'm hoping we're in for a Reverse Bradley (ifyouknowwhutI'msayin).

UPDATE 2: The best thing McCain has done or said in months. However, it may be too little, too late as it seems clear he's now lost control of his party and his supporters.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Tokyo, Day One, Dinner. It's On.

I just hope we don't get this waiter.

The Measure Of A President

The NYT asks, "Does candidate height and weight play a role in electoral success?". They offer their findings in a well-crafted infographic giving a side-by-side comparison of candidate match-ups since 1896.

Thursday, October 9, 2008


Ok, so technically he's not breaking. But it made for a damn fine headline. In two weeks Hol and I will be trying to track this guy down in Shibuya and trying to forget – briefly – that the most important election of our lives will take place four days after we return.

UPDATE: Evidently, we may not have to look too hard (and we won't have to limit our search to Shibuya) for the Tokyo Dance/Rock Trooper. Not sure exactly how, but it looks like he's a representative of this collectible Japanese figures site. And, check out my current fav vid of the Dance Trooper.

"A Landslide Brought It Down"

Dem Strategists See Landslide In The Making.
Don't get complacent. Make it rain*.
*Figuratively, I'm thinking more this sort of weather. As opposed to this.

And, of course, I'd be remiss not to include this.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

"Man At His Best"

That's Esquire magazine's strapline. In their 75 years of chronicling the best practices of men at their best the Editors have never endorsed a Presidential candidate. Until now.

It's written in a more familiar tone than the New Yorker's endorsement but is equally persuasive none-the-less.

The issue (pictured) is on newsstands now.

They also apparently endorse Halle Berry in the hotly-contested race for the "Sexiest Woman Alive" seat.


The VP Debate You Didn't See: The Palin vs. Biden Freestyle Battle!

"Here Are Some Facts You Need To Know"

Yesterday I received an email – with the above headline – purporting to detail the impact of Obama's tax plan on the average American. I won't go into detail, but suffice it to say it was clearly a piece of malicious junk mail spam. So, I did a quick check on the invaluable rumor-debunking site,, and sure enough, they'd found it to be FALSE.

So, please, if you ever receive an email regarding something you "MUST SEE" or "NEED TO READ" or "WHAT THEY'RE NOT TELLING YOU" (often accompanied by three or more exclamation marks), please, check it at Snopes before hitting forward and spamming your address book.

Monday, October 6, 2008

The Choice

Read the restrained yet powerful endorsement of Barack Obama by the Editors* of The New Yorker.

*Take if from these guys they're smart. And if you doubt that, be on the lookout for the umlaut in their spelling of coöperation. Now, that's intellect you can trust.

Illustration: The New Yorker

Friday, October 3, 2008

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Music To Put You In The Mood

To watch the debate.

Grab the OBAMIX from Bay Area DJ King Most. Trust me, you want this – just check out the sweet tracklist:

Intro/Smoked Sugar: I’m A Winner
Roy Davis Jr.: People Get Ready
Jackson 5: We’re Almost There (DJ Spinna Remix)
Erykah Badu: Solider (Sasaac Remix)
Masta Ace: Beautiful
Black Spade: We Need A Revolution
Skull Snaps: It’s A New Day
Marvin Gaye & The Mizzel Brothers: We Are We Going?
James Brown: Mind Power
Antibalas: Si Se Puede
Grandmaster Flash: The Message (Next Message Blend Version)
Dj Day: A Place To Go
Double Exposure: Everyman For Himself
Donald Byrd: Change Makes Ya Wanna Hustle
Stevie Wonder: Blackman (Kay Sputnik Re-Edit)
L.T.D.: Love To The World
Cymande: Bra
Pitbull: American War
The Dynamics: Move On Up

Almost forgot... Props to Andrew for the hook up.

If You Haven't Registered To Vote And Have A Laptop, You're In For A Treat

Sarah Silverman will clarify. Just watch. And, if you really haven't yet, register. NOW.
Thanks to Sarah for the tip.

To The Candidates: Wake Up And Smell The Country

7-Election. Very clever effort from 7-11.